Vilanova hits back at Pique over Barca squad concerns
Barcelona star Gerard Pique received a slap on the wrist from his coach Tito Vilanova after suggesting the Catalan club should make significant changes to the squad during the summer.
The defender made the comments in the wake of his side’s crushing Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich. And the Spanish media have been quick to add names such as Brazilian striker Neymar, defender Mats Hummels and Manchester United keeper David de Gea to a long list of potential summer arrivals.
But Vilanova once again made it plain that he believes a radical overhaul of the squad is unnecessary, chiding Pique by quipping: “I suppose the player who spoke about making changes doesn’t believe that he should be one of them. I don’t think the team needs many changes.
“All that’s needed is some reinforcements, just as we’ve been planning for the last few months. I don’t have any doubts in these players and my thinking about them hasn’t changed.”
Vilanova was also quick to point to Barca’s long injury list, which saw Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano all miss last week’s second leg against Bayern, with Jordi Alba also absent through suspension.
“One thing you can’t control is injuries,” he added. “We’ve had a lot of them this season and at this level, where teams are so equal, it gives a big advantage to the opposition.”
One player who has come in for particular criticism in recent weeks is Cesc Fabregas, who bore the brunt of the Nou Camp crowd’s dissatisfaction during Wednesday’s 3-0 second-leg loss to Bayern, which sealed 7-0 on aggregate.
The former Arsenal midfielder has never fully won over the Barca fans following his return to Catalonia at the start of last season. But Vilanova offered a strong defence of the player who has already scored 10 league goals and provided 10 assists in the current campaign.
“Cesc is a player of great quality,” insisted the Barca boss. “It was very difficult for him to come here, but last season he was our second top scorer and this season he’s going the same way again.
“His performances are very good and I don’t think the majority of people in the stadium the other day focused their displeasure on him. He’s a big asset to the team.”
Barca are back in action later on Sunday as they attempt to move closer towards the La Liga title by hosting Real Betis. And Vilanova believes the game provides an important opportunity to restore a positive atmosphere around the Nou Camp.
“We want to give the fans a boost,” he admitted. “The sooner we get the points we need, the better. “If we win today, it will allow us to be more relaxed about the games that follow. We want to regain the league title that we lost last season.”
Fabregas won’t figure against Betis as he sits out the clash through suspension, while keeper Victor Valdes will be missing with a foot injury, allowing veteran Jose Pinto to deputise.
Argentine ace Messi (hamstring) and defensive midfielder Busquets (groin) have resumed training, but a late decision will be taken over their fitness.